Ringing in the New Year

WOW. anyone else experience a post holiday crash and burn? It was all I could do to get out of bed this morning after a compressed week filled with travel, love, friends, and opportunity. On the last work day of the year I’m taking stock of everything that’s been and planning a vision for what’s yet to be.

Sending you energy and vibes to gather your own thoughts, push down the lies, take realistic stock of where you’re at in this moment... and dare to imagine the life you deserve to live.

You can do it, darlings. If you don’t believe in you, reach out, and I can help give you that little power up you might need.

A Brave New Brunch at New America

I've been reminded this weekend how important the arts of listening, empathy, and humility are to relationships. I am often so quick to criticize- to establish a sense of pride in my self knowledge and good taste. It feels good in the moment to reap the rewards of a quick tongue and smart (aleck) attitude. But I can only control my actions and reactions- so today I choose grace and loving words over clever quips. 

I am most judgmental of art/design, food/drink, and music. But the meal Keith and I ate for brunch today suspended all my judgements. New America Diner is shining a lovely, optimistic beacon of welcome in a long neglected corner of Eutaw and Franklin Streets in North Downtown/West Mount Vernon/the middle of white people whispering 'WellItsGotAGoodReputationBut CanYouReallyBeOkayGoingThereAtNightIMeanItsNotReallyInTheGreatestPartOfTownAndYouNeverKnowWhatCanHappenInThisPartOfBaltimoreCity.' 

I can tell you that's it's worth it to leave your bubble for just a few blocks. Not only will you get to eat at the best breakfast spot in Baltimore, you'll also encounter some of the most amazing street art and architecture in the city. And honestly, you'll probably be completely alone the entire time. 

It's a delight to enter the former Chas' Fish storefront and find a Scandinavian inspired interior that manages to actually hit the hygge mark- with hand painted signage, clean lines, wood and antique accents, and plenty of plants. It manages to be both stylish and lived in at the same time in the best way. The environment is not dissimilar to my favorite pair of thrifted Ferragamo shoes- they're well made, fit like a glove, are designer, and only cost $15. This intrepid crew's restaurant, like your favorite aunt, seems to greet you at the door with a hug and a 'I'm SO glad you stopped by!'. There are no strangers here - and the price proves it. 

I'm not a brunch person. 90% of the time, anything you can make, I can make better. I am unimpressed by your pancakes and artisanially unique jams. I make tinctures like Balsamic Blackberry Blood Orange and Citrus Cardamom Chipotle for funsies, and my version of Old Black Witch's pancakes have no equal. I've conquered eggs of every style, a bad ass stuffed french toast, and my BLTs would make Kenji Lopez-Alt weep tears of joy. Come at me with your bullshit overpriced breakfasts, bro. 

But today we tried three dishes from the simple but enticing menu. They ran the gamut from sweet to savory. We were delighted with the inventive takes on familiar favorites with high quality, intriguing ingredients and again, fair pricing.

First up, a brioche cinnamon roll with creme fraiche icing. It was subtly sweet with a mild tang; the ample filling melted into pillow soft pastry with an excellent crumb.

The fried green tomatoes were perfectly breaded - I hate when a deep fried vegetable's crumbing pulls away from its host. Cooked through but still firm, they were complemented by a green aioli that was bright in both taste and color. A small salad, the wild greens shimmering with a vinaigrette made our decadent meal seem the tiniest bit healthy.

Last but not least, the biscuits and gravy. Bs&Gs and I go way back. Biscuits have been my carbohydrate of choice for the last 28 years of my life or so. Drop, baking powder, Grands!, lard - I've never met a biscuit I didn't like. Like bad sex, a bad biscuit is still, at the end of the day, a relatively pleasurable thing.

Adding gravy to the mix makes things a bit more complex. Gravy is easier to mess up than biscuits: too runny and the the biscuit disintegrates. Too peppery or salty and it overwhelms the flavor profile. Easy to make lumpy or gritty with just a bit of inattention (ask me how I know) - there are lot of ways the gravy can go wrong. (thus the phrase "Good Gravy!")

Let me tell you all the ways this Biscuit and Gravy got it right: The biscuit was thick and fluffy, with enough structure to hold the hearty gravy and to stay unmelted. Gregarious chunks of sweet pork sausage peeked craggily through their veils of creamy sauce - thick and glossy, flecked with just enough pepper and red flakes - maybe pimentón ? And for some reason, a crown of tiny purple flowers scattered carelessly about, adding a whiff of pleasure and whimsy to this solid and tantalizing dish. 

The service was quick, kind, and unobtrusive. The open kitchen showed unhurried, steady delivery punctuated with laughter- signs of a team moving in sync. The rough-edged vestiges of the former pescatarian paradise remain - the iron gates inside the windows, unfinished ceiling laying bare its wiring - smoothed over and sanded down with classic books, minimalist greenery, and art.

Art is hard to create and easy to critique. It's easy to tell if you don't like something, but much harder to describe why. The best designs are the ones beloved unconsciously by the general public; Apple products come to mind. I have a friend with a tattoo of his favorite designed object - the lowly paper clip. Its efficiency and outline are forever etched into the blade of his right shoulder. 

And so it was with the few pieces dotting the clean white walls. Bright colors, seemingly simple shapes and designs, that softened and grew layer upon inspection. A wabi-sabi imperfect beauty that shone with earnestness, not attention to detail. Paintings that reminded me that I could do that, if I gave myself the chance.

Too often I stare at the blank canvas, accepting failure to launch over the possibility of beginning and creating something imperfect. The style, if authentic to its creator, is the beauty of the art piece. And so I stared between each blissful bite shared with my equally impressed husband (a fiercer critic than myself) at the shaky-handed outline of the art on the wall at New America. 

Was this a review after the first visit? Absolutely. Am I eager to try every dish on the menu? 100%. Am I itching to go back to see how the space comes alive at night? You bet your buttons, Sally. And is there an all night happy hour on Mondays? You know it!

I left New America and that lovely neighborhood brimming with the potential and energy that only a new creation ripe with possibility can create. I believe in the strength and community that an accessible, welcoming restaurant with incredible food that many people can enjoy brings. Baltimore has good reason to be proud of her latest culinary addition. Go check it out as soon as you can! 

It's a Privileged Day in the Neighborhood...

Today I yelled at a white woman who was taking 'artistic' pictures of a crime scene that happened on my street. She didn't introduce herself, say hi, or acknowledge any of the people standing around, witnessing. She snapped the tape, the cops, the crying families, then turned around to get a shot of the colorful mural on my house, and I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

I walked over to her. "Hi, do you live around here?" I asked, in my preppiest White Girl Voice. "no," she said. "Are you a journalist?" My voice got tight. My neighbors were across the street, watching us warily. "No. I take pictures of crime scenes." "For fun?" "for art." "Please don't take pictures of my house," I said. "We're trying hard to support each other and build up this neighborhood, and don't need bad outside press." She said nothing, and I went back across the street.

She paced up and down the yellow tape, searching for angles, crouching on her haunches at one point for a lower angle. Never mind the keening of the women who witnessed their loved one getting shot. Disregard for the brother who stormed out to his car and took off, fueled by grief and rage.

And then, she sauntered off. Funky tote bag and cute outfit perfectly in place, red DLR slung over her shoulder. I looked around and realized I was the only other white person for blocks. No one was going to say anything to her. I jogged around the corner and yelled. "Hey MAGGIE!" She turned around, surprised. "Do you have a website? Are you going to put these pictures on Instagram?"

Admittedly, I didn't give her a chance to reply. It finally clicked. "Who do you think you are to just drop in and capture other people's pain? That boy was someone's family, and it was so rude and gross for you to barge in and make it your art project." She stammered, and I ignored her. "Check your f*cking privilege, man."

Dear ex-neighbors of OTR: I'm sorry for all the times I didn't get it. I'm trying to do better. Hoping we can all do better and keep taking care of each other. Fellow artists, remember your context.

Three Years in Baltimore

Today marks three years since I packed up all my stuff, attempted to sedate my cats, and 12 hours later, ended up in Baltimore. Leaving Cincinnati - and everything and everyone along with it- forced me to grow and change in ways I never imagined.

Growth is not easy. What may seem like failure is never fun in the moment. But my empathy, experiences, abilities, have all been stretched beyond what I thought was possible. I've had to examine who I am without the anchor of a Place as part of my personality.

Baltimore is beginning to feel familiar and come into focus. I am excited to be starting year four alongside my Person, a little more faceted and experienced, with the small beginnings of roots taking hold and ready to flower in the Spring.

I am grateful to my loves who are far away- that we still remain connected through effort and technology. Never hesitate to reach out; you are always on my mind and welcome in my home.

And to newer friends who are closer, I am so happy you are in my life- and hope to see you sooner rather than later.

Connection is everything.

Thoughts from a Nasty Woman (or, so you've decided to try out civic responsibility...)

Yesterday was a fabulously interesting social experiment. I am fascinated with how strangers interact with each other. Marching, maneuvering, and mingling with hundreds of strangers resulted in these observations:

- the majority of tension and negative energy I experienced stemmed from white men and women attempting to exercise their privilege and meeting resistance (possibly for the first time). I've been in crowded situations before, but standing at the rally there was literally no room for movement. Many people were overcome by the crowd and pushed their way out, but there was no way for anyone to take their spot. Yet again and again, white men (and some women) kept trying to push their way closer to the front. One such gentleman yelled at me after I told him there was no way anyone could move- and angrily condescended when I pointed out the irony of him clapping back to me in that space and time. He was so rude- it shocked everyone in the immediate radius. But no one stood up to him. I was initially humiliated, then outraged.

- It was fun to help lead and grow all sorts of various chants and songs at various points in the protest. The only one that went over like a lead balloon was when I started yelling 'White silence is White violence!' Corrie and Liz of course joined in, and a few others. But the air immediately clammed up with tension. Most of those who could hear the chant were white, and they were struggling with how to respond. And whether they should join in. I kept it up for way longer than necessary. My fellow white people- ya gotta get comfortable talking out loud about race. Start practicing- it will get easier with time.

- This was a first brush with civil engagement for many people. The rally ran super long- maybe partially because the slate was enormous and partially because they were stalling to reconfigure the route. I watched my fellow protestors get bored, uncomfortable, not get their way, not have their expectations met, get lost and confused... and passive aggressively- and overtly aggressively- get mad and complain. News flash: political discourse is not always fun and is almost never easy. Buying a pink hat and a cool sign and a bus ticket was baby step number one. We can't give up after we go home. Time to start building political muscle and engaging in the boring stuff.

- Music is one of the greatest connectors. America the Beautiful. Lean on Me. This Land is Your Land. This Little Light of Mine. We would start singing quietly, and by the end of the second chorus it would swell and start to ripple through the crowd. They were looking for a conductor, and connector. We sang together loud and clear and it was so powerful, so electric.

Yesterday was beautiful, inspiring, exciting- but very clear many need help, education, support and motivation to continue taking political action. If you've got the knowledge and experience, please mentor and encourage those just starting out.

On loving and leaving old things behind

I walked into Park + Vine two weeks after it opened in 2007. I was a sophomore in college, and had just finished a building walkthrough with my classmates for our office design studio (the building was the current Revolution Rotisserie & Bar space). The rest of my classmates fled OTR in a hurry; I walked around the corner and into this neat store filled with tire furniture and cool T-shirts and bought an IZZE grapefruit soda, striking up a conversation with the kind and gregarious proprietor. Little did I know how that drink with Danny Korman would change my life.

Almost 10 years later, we've been through Parking Days, multiple boyfriends, puppy snuggles, mac and cheez chow downs, dozens of conversations and revelations, silly and serious. This little store and I grew up and watched the neighborhood we worked so hard to rebuild take off and leave us in the dust.

The same weekend I returned to Cincinnati, I said goodbye to another old friend. The Famous Neon's Unplugged. I shudder to think how much money I spent at that bar. It was my living room; my refuge; my kitchen table; my therapist's couch. I made out, made up, fought, flirted, schemed, celebrated, cried, wrote, networked, and had hundreds of drinks and conversations that cemented the most solid foundational friendships in my life. 

I was there in Where's Waldo glasses for the pre-opening party in Halloween of 2009 - preparing for the first streetcar victory and drinking the newly revamped Hudy 14k. I hosted my college graduation party, bachelorette party, both Keith and I's going away party, and our wedding after-party at Neon's. When Mike revamped the upstairs with comfortable leather sofa's, a cozy fireplace, and cable, I was there, bourbon in hand, to catch up on Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and Family Guy. I WAS THERE. Cincinnati.... do you remember when I was there?  I am starting to forget. It feels sometimes like a dream. Another life. 

The afternoon sun was fading as I walked around the corner and down 12th Street. A loading van was parked out front; various workers - no one I knew - were hurriedly hauling random bits of leftovers away from the barren courtyard. The cafe lights were strung all alone. Bocce court covered over. Dan's Grill never to be lit again. I did a lap for the last time, tears in my eyes. 

Like the rest of Main Street, something new will take the place of these institutions, and will do very well. With the passage of time the original heroes that gave their souls to restoring the neighborhood will be forgotten to the memories of old farts like me.  We'll smile, juggle our babies, and reminisce about the Good Old Days, when walking down Main Street meant a smile and hello from friendly faces, and a welcoming puppy and guarantee of seeing friends no matter what time you walked through the gates of The Famous Neon's Unplugged. 

I am learning to let go of my death grip on my memories. On my pride in claiming the very small part I played in helping bring the beauty back to one of the most amazing neighborhoods in the country. And I know I have to keep it to myself - it sounds weird and sad and unbelievable to relay my past life to new friends in Baltimore. I swear... I used to be a big deal. 

Part of my journey this year has been unpacking the grief I tucked inside me after leaving my OTR Jenny Kessler self behind. This is another layer of that pain that leads to growth, and eventually peace.

You are not your jacket!

Our personal frames, perspectives, and biases manifest in sometimes opposing world views. The key is being able to take off or recognize our own framework and put on or view someone else's without feeling like we are denying our core beliefs and Self- which is where so much breakdown is happening.

It's 'I have a jacket' (an opinion or view that I can take on or off as I please) versus 'I am my jacket' (where my view in inexorably linked to who I am as a person).

This exercise in empathy is increasingly important to me, as someone who proudly wore her 'I am Cincinnati! I am Streetcar! I am urbanism!' Jackets for many years- and had to really examine the person that was left after I finally took them off. It's difficult to do... but so liberating, and so needed, these days.

You are just you. Not your jacket! 👘✌🏽️🌎❤️


A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he saw the less he spoke.
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we be more like that wise old bird?

I've been in plenty of conversations and debates with men that dominated the conversation- but came nowhere close to putting themselves or their arguments in a good light.

One of my biggest lessons learned this year is the vital importance of listening and NOT talking as a competent, effective leader.

Domination does not mean coherence, substance, or 'winning'.


Keith and I have faced joys and challenges this year. I am yoked with a man who gives as much or more than he gets, and who dances with me through any weather life sends our way.

Investment - in people and places- means you don't always get to see the rewards of the seeds you plant. It takes some time to bear fruit. This weekend I got to experience in person the results of cultivation- the Cincinnati streetcar opening and a year of marriage with its roots in the city.

Moving away from Cincinnati as the fruits of investment began to bloom has sometimes been a challenge for me. But by passing the streetcar and city love torches on, I got to focus on tilling new soil and strengthening the most significant relationship in my life.

Wherever we go, whatever we do... I will show you my love in as many ways as I know how, till my last breath, or yours.

A Sea Change for Social in 2016

Anyone else feeling a tiny bit burnt out on social media as we stare down the end of 2015? There's so much to cycle through.  Facebook. Snapchat. Imgur. Reddit. Insta. Twitter. It's a little overwhelming, even for a professional junkie like me. Noise. Distraction. I'm ready to move forward and explore what's next. Over the next year, I suspect we may see a shift in social advertising that is quieter- giving consumers relief from the deluge. 

Over the years I've built social campaigns and managed multiple brands personally, professionally, and as volunteer work. I've watched the rise and fall of Facebook for brands- the early swell of open engagement and the subsequent tightening of the noose. Nothing comes for free, friends.

These days most marketers, myself included, can set your brand up for social. Anyone with a brain, Google, and a halfway decent writing style can enlighten you on the differences and values of varying platforms, curate some content, and suddenly, you have a social presence! Welcome to 2015. Showing up is no longer enough.

How are brands are winning the game, garnering those elusive likes, shares, clicks, and views these days? It's not through traditional Facebook posts- this past month showed a discouraging and drastic drop in engagement across the space.

Some brands are looking ahead. They are finding trends and showing up where their audience is playing, drawing patterns. conclusions, and stepping outside the box to reach for something new. They are tapping into creative outlets and producing beautiful, quality, interesting work. They are thinking and acting strategically.

A major part of my skill set lies in creative brand and social strategy. To me, strategy means sifting through culture, history, and archetype to find the meaning and story behind a brand, developing a consistent voice and personality that rings true to that brand's essence, looking ahead to forge an intentional path. It's making smart choices and finding patterns to achieve something meaningful in your marketing. It is rising above the noise, capturing attention and winning affection from potential customers.

Growth for growth's sake is the path of a cancer cell. Our audiences are growing weary of the noise and starting to tune out. How do we engage in a more authentic way?

Three brands have hit advertising home runs over the last month. The firstPepsi's collaboration with the hit show Empire. Jamal Lyons crafting the perfect Pepsi jingle makes sense. It fits seamlessly into the story without taking too much attention away or seeming forced- and the segue from show to ad in the season finale (sorry for the spoiler!) was unbelievably perfect. People don't mind product placement when it's unobtrusive and works in context.

TwoTarget's Adele ads on Hulu- watched during Empire! They weren't ads at all- just 30 second clips of her new record with a branded art card at the end. No words. No promotions. The subtlety of the ad made me notice and appreciate the silence- each ad spot was a different clip from the album. It wasn't grating or repetitive (I'm looking at you, every other Hulu commercial in existence). I can't wait to get 25 on vinyl, and yes, I will shop at Target first.

Last but not least -  Old Spice's foray into Imgur. For those not in theknow, this platform is the beginning of the viral Internet. Every hilarious meme you see on Facebook is uploaded to Imgur days earlier. There are countless Facebook pageswebsites, and Instagram feeds that exist solely to scrape original content from this anonymous black hole of creativity and regurgitate it (with or without attribution, TheFatJew) for profit. It is the playground for nerdy young men- the target demo for Old Spice. Over the last three months, this brand's inserted themselves into the conversation by creating Photoshop GIF battles with their hilarious spokes dudes. Some members balked at Old Spice's presence, but many moreappreciated being reached on their level, in their language. They definitely made some new fans of the brand.

So how does this outsized work scale down to the thousands of brands and companies out there with fractions of the budget and manpower of these behemoths? Take the rest of December to put some strategy behind your output. Now is the time to review what's working, what's not, and look around to see how your content can be a breath of fresh air to consumers drowning in mediocre noise. Can your company be a champion for an artist that embodies your values and deserves the spotlight- and helps you create content worth sharing?  Maybe it's cutting down on quantity so each post is truly quality- and putting money being it to ensure its visibility.

Maybe it's dropping a platform that isn't working (outside of basic SEO purposes) to focus where your message resonates best. Maybe it's looking outside the Big Three platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or even towards something more traditional, as a way to make waves in your space. How about email? Take a breath, look around, notice the empty spaces where you can fit in a way that isn't forced. Stop shouting, and we will listen.

Trends swing on a pendulum, and my sense is that 2016 may point consumers back towards the analog, or at the very least, get a little quieter. Whatever you do, be strategic and intentional about it. Take the time to develop a plan. Don't worry about missing out- the river of social noise will be waiting for you whenever you're ready to jump back into it. Let's greet the new year with a refreshed outlook and new ways to tell our stories.

And if you find your team struggling with finding your voice, discovering your story, or developing a plan? Holler at me. This is what I do.

A fresh start (again)

Sometimes you've already got lemonade, and life gives you vodka to go with it. And sparklers. And a pony. 

Sometimes you're all snug and cosy in a great little apartment, then you happen across what can only be described as a once in a lifetime housing opportunity. There was no reason to us to move, except, ya know...  


Back in the fall, my random internet wandering stumbled upon a couple preparing to leave this gem of an apartment - the entire second floor of a former shipbuilder's mansion in the historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore. 

One visit and we were in, hook line and sinker. The former entertaining floor was repurposed into apartment living- 3 main rooms, a kitchen, and bathroom. Marble fireplaces. Elaborate plaster molded ceilings. TWO chandeliers. The only answer was, YES! Let's live in a ballroom. 

(our TV lives above this fireplace)

Packing up, especially when you feel like you've just settled down, is a little bit crazy. But if I've learned anything over the last year, it's that a change can do good. We were looking for a place with a little bit more room (when you both work from home, it's hard to take phone calls when the desks are back to back), and a neighborhood that was more our style.

Moving from one city to another is always a bit of a crapshoot. It's really hard to judge a city's neighborhood character based on a weekend visit, no matter how much internet research one does. We lucked into a great spot when we first moved to Baltimore... but it wasn't 'our' spot.

Fell's Point is incredibly fun, historical, and vibrant... but also a little crazy. Every weekend (and most weeknights), the streets are filled with people having a great time (and letting us know about it through the window.) It was a great introduction to the city, but for the most part, my partying days are over. I really missed meeting people from the neighborhood - and it was hard to do with so many coming in from the suburbs to have a good time. Not bad! Just not for me.

Mt. Vernon, on the other hand, is a little quieter. Still very centrally located - and even more walkable/closer to transit than Fells! It's right by the highways, the train station, and a short walk down to the harbor. The houses are all older and absolutely gorgeous, and the *first* Washington Monument (suck it, DC!) is right outside our window, located on a little park. People sit on stoops and walk their dogs. And say hi to each other. It's kind of amazing.

I wish there had been a site like Urban Compass out there for Baltimore when we were trying to figure out what neighborhood to settle in. It's only for NYC (for now), but the site gives a feel for a lot of popular boroughs of New York, and what to expect if you move there. From Chelsea (diverse, fast-paced, for foodies) to Park Slope (elegant, for families, serene) and everywhere in between, you can find the right fit for you - and an apartment in the area! Pretty perfect. Now, expand please! Cincinnati and Baltimore need a service like yours.


Here's a few more shots of our place. I'm excited for a fresh start, a new year, in a new neighborhood. More room means plenty of space for guests- come on over and visit us, already! We've already had a few people over, but the goal is to host a NYE 2015 party filled to the brim with friends we made this year.

The kitchen - huge built in pantry that I recovered with contact paper (may revisit in a future post). Gas stove! And plenty of room for dance parties. If you're into that sort of thing.

This is the view when you first walk in. I am an extremely amateur photographer, and would love someone who knows what they're doing to come and take real pictures sometime. 

It's difficult to furnish a ballroom. I've been spray painting a lot of things gold. The trick is to find the balance between the art, furniture and accessories we own to feel grounded in the space, not randomly just stuck there - without filling it to the brim with new things. Odds are any future place will not have 18' ceilings. 

The kittens are pretty happy with the new digs. They like climbing on things.

Click through the slideshow to see the rest of the setup. Better yet, come see it in person. 

Thanks, Urban Compass, for inspiring me to write this post! I didn't get paid, just asked nicely - and I needed the motivation. So now you know. 

A Handy Guide to Lady Laundry

I put up a tip on Reddit last night, and apparently it was quite helpful. So here's a bigger graphic and some attribution. P&G Fabric Care and related agencies, you're welcome. Hire my agency for more cool work.

Handy tips when doing lady laundry:

When you're switching clothes from the washer to the dryer, remember:

If it's Sexy, Stretchy, See Through, or Sheepish (wool) - hang it up to dry.

When in doubt, leave it out (of the dryer) - messing up/shrinking/ruining her bras, sporty stuff, and delicate clothing will put a sour note on your nice gesture.

BF and I came up with these rules when we moved in together- 9 months later and no ruined clothing!

It sparked quite the debate on gender roles, laundry care, and general puns/jokes/sexism that is the reddit community. In our house my boyfriend and I split household chores. He does laundry because I'm terrible at folding clothes. I cook, he does dishes, I tidy up and clean the bathroom.. it all works out in the end. 

I just wanted to help out any guys that wanted to surprise their ladies with taking on a chore - so that the surprise is GOOD, and not full of tears and anger. No one likes ruined clothing. 

Go forth and launder, for yourself or your loved ones... however you choose!

Fall down seven times. Stand up eight.

I went skiing for the first time this week. Before Monday my winter sports experience consisted of ice skating and sledding in the Midwest. But my best girl moved out to Denver and demanded I come out so she could introduce me to the mountains. I stuffed all the random winter clothing I had in a duffel and flew out to Colorado.

Pictures don’t really do the mountains justice. No lens can truly capture the way the light reflects off the snow. How blue the sky gets when the clouds are blown away. It’s a juxtaposition of untamed wilderness… and hundreds of people trying to tame it with wooden boards buckled to their feet.

I wasn’t sure how it would go – but people I love really love skiing – so I put on my brave face and went with it. We went to the ski shop the day before and I got fitted for some concrete manacles covered in shiny plastic – ski boots, they called them. I think it’s what the mafia uses when they make you swim with the fishes.

We know I don’t do heights – but I was surprisingly okay with the gondola. Going up the side of the cliff – watching the trees float beneath me – hell, even in the chair lift – was completely serene. We shared a ride with a pair holding a power meeting, discussing marketing and branding opportunities for their snow bound start up – presumably before spending the rest of the morning boarding. Pretty good way to do business, if you ask me.

Learning to ski is not for the proud of spirit. You end up looking – and feeling – like a giant doofus. Not only are you hobbling around in those crazy heavy uncomfortable boots, THEN you finally click into the skis and turn into a human baby giraffe. Let’s put it this way – I fell trying to get on the chairlift. 

My instructor doesn’t believe in bunny hills – so we started on the easiest trail level – a short little trail with a very gradual slope. It was me, La, a few other schmucks, and a gaggle of children fearlessly flinging themselves down the mountain.

Nothing about skiing is intuitive. Not a damn thing. Your feet are suddenly 4 feet longer than normal, and you have to shift your body weight around in order to stop. After receiving patient instruction on the finer points of digging in my upper sides, making pizza instead of French fries, and facing perpendicular to the mountain when stopping or getting up after a fall, I tried it out. And fell. And then took five minutes to get up. And confidently pushed forward a few feet. And then fell again. And then got up again. And made a turn, made another turn (with much glee and excitement) then started hurtling down the hill, freaked out, and (you guessed it) fell over. Again. Wash, rinse, repeat. 45 minutes later, I made it to the end of the first trail – and somehow Lauren hadn’t throttled me.

By the second or third time around, I was starting to get the hang of it. When I let go and let my body take over, for the most part, good things started to happen. By the fourth run I was figuring out muscles – playing with small body weight shifts, using the poles for balance. I made it all the way down, and then fell as soon as I got back in line for the lift. Typical.

The voice inside my brain was freaking out. All these people, in their fancy gear, who’ve been skiing since they could walk, are judging you. They think you’re stupid and inept. They’re laughing at you. And then I ‘d say these things out loud and La would balance them out with a laugh and an affirmation of the opposite. You’re never going to see these people again. Who gives a good goddamn?

I hate being bad at things. I guess most people do, but this is why I don’t go bowling. I suck at it, and get grumpy. So after I took a little break (and Lauren went and did some actual skiing), we (she) decided we should try a bigger trail – with a medium level start and an easy finish.

We took a mega super lift up to the top. And I freaked. It was so much steeper than the little trail I had gotten comfortable with! It was more narrow, there were way more people. But there was only one way back – down. So, slowly, slooooowly, with much cursing, screeching, and general freaking out – we made our way down. There’s not a ton of snow in December, so most of the people out that Monday were locals and ski patrols training for the season. This meant after every fall, we were approached by 2-4 overly zealous patrol people asking if I was okay. Things that get old quick….

But when I was getting it, it felt a little like flying. I marveled at the ease and efficiency of swishing those skis (left one Gordon, right one Rightfoot. Yes, I was talking to my skis.) around. It was worth the fear and the humiliation.

By the end of the day, I nearly understood why people pay a ton of money to strap themselves into uncomfortable equipment to fling themselves down a potentially treacherous snow bank. Almost. Apparently I won’t fully get it for a few more times. It seems like a sneaky ploy to get me to come back.

And now for the analogy…

I feel like I’ve been learning to ski this whole freaking year. I’ve been throwing myself into new situations, feeling awkward and uncomfortable and trying really hard to get it right. At the gym. Just getting around. I thought I would have more friends by now. I thought trying harder would help- and it has. But I'm not there yet. Better than I was, but still gaining speed, freaking out, and landing on my butt.

I need a break. I need to fly a little, to feel the wind on my face. After the ski adventure I counted 13 bruises on my legs. I fell probably over 25 times in the span of 6 hours. But I tasted a little of that freedom, speed, exhilaration, and am willing to get up and try it again.

Maybe I need to switch the trail – and moving to a new neighborhood feels like we did that, in a way. But my hope for 2015 is that these internal bruises heal a little bit. That I get a taste of something exhilarating and exciting – friendship. Community. Flying.

About Me

This is the story of a country girl who found her soul in the city and never looked back.

I'm a jill of all trades - I do whatever it takes to bring people, products and places together. 

My design journey started with an incredible 5 years in the interior design program at DAAP. I've been carving a new path for myself ever since, with stops along the way in design, non profits, and agency life. I'm currently working in account management - but my past experiences help bring a lot of perspective to everything I do.

I connect people and their ideas to each other. Writing, tweeting, designing, concepting... from meeting with clients to getting projects out the door, I love getting my hands all over every step of the design process.

I'm guided by my personal sense of "meraki" - a Greek word meaning "the love of creating - putting one's self into one's work." I can't wait to see where it leads me.

I started writing in April of 2009 to reach a wider audience for a furniture product I designed and am producing for small scale retail distribution. I've grown a little and so has my writing and experiences. I was the Operations Manager for UrbanCincy from 2009 to the beginning of 2012, and have had several articles published in Soapbox Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Business Courier.

I'm in the midst of living and loving my life. I hope you'll stick around for the ride.

Why I BodyCombat

I didn't choose BodyCombat. It chose me. Rather - I walked into my favorite Zumba class one July evening 3 years ago and found it cancelled. 

But how about I try this other class instead? The person behind the desk asked. I peeked in and saw a tiny woman shouting and throwing punches in front of a crew of several sweaty ladies. It was intriguing, and a little terrifying.

I took a deep breath and timidly found a space in the back of the room. The next 40 minutes were a blur of energy. I hadn't worked this hard since running suicides for JV soccer! What WAS this? Punching? Kicking? I took lots of breaks, dripped water from every pore, and briefly contemplated if I would make it out alive.  Through the haze of high energy music, the instructor's voice rang out: "You can do this! I believe in you! Keep going!" The last song ended with a triumphant punch in the air. I felt simultaneously drained and invincible. I came back the next week. And the week after that.  I couldn't get enough.

BodyCombat is a mixed martial arts cardio fitness class. It combines choreography inspired by karate, boxing, capoiera, kickboxing, Muy Thai, and tae kwan do, with high energy music to burn calories, sculpt muscles, increase stamina and give you a heck of a work out.

 One Combat class will burn anywhere from 500-700 calories. One class will encompass hundreds of kicks and punches, and a core workout equivalent of 1700 crunches. It's nuts. I'm addicted.

My very first solo class!
Last February I was going through some pretty tough personal stuff. Being laid off from my job coupled with a breakup - Combat was one of my only releases- and worth the expense of the gym membership.

 The last bout of air punches to the end of the workout would come and I'd pep myself up: "You are worth it. You're going to get a job. You're going to come out on top. You can do this. It's going to all work out." Or it would be "Screw that interviewer. Screw unemployment. Screw this heartbreak and frustration."


Slowly, I got stronger. Didn't consider passing out during *quite* so many workouts. I learned the songs. Got to know the instructors. Joked about teaching myself someday. 

The joke turned into reality this winter. I braved 20 hours on the Megabus and 16 hours worth of training in Erie, PA. I was the only non-full-time new instructor. It was terrifying. I passed.

Bella Forza's Motto: Strong is our Sexy.
Since moving to Baltimore I've found a great gym with tons of locations (including one a mile away from home!) and amazing instructors. I started teaching on my own this month.

It never gets easier. But I'm consistently getting stronger. The Les Mills programs (oh yeah, there's also weight lifting, yoga, and a plethora of other awesome workouts!) consistently challenge me to go above and beyond what I thought my body was capable of achieving.

I found this great list of what to expect from class here and just had to share - couldn't have said it better myself!

So. What to expect from a BodyCombat class? 
  1. Fun and excitement
  2. An adrenaline pumped, action-packed class
  3. A 4-5 class learning curve on the basic techniques and skills and choreography patterns
  4. Some confusion in those first few classes - but just know this will pass once your knowledge base builds - like trying anything new in life!
  5. A supportive group of participants who have been exactly where YOU are at some point! And in fact, if it is a NEW RELEASE class, they may actually be nervous about the new moves too. It's ok to laugh through it.
  6. To sweat and pant
  7. To feel empowered and inspired
  8. To get a taste of what it is like to be a fighter (both in mind and spirit)
  9. Some aching sore muscles for the couple of days following the class if this type of movement is new for you - that is a good thing because it means your muscles are toning up
  10. To become addicted to BODYCOMBAT!
No matter where I am, this workout meets me there. It might seem silly to rhapsodize about 55 minutes of air kicks and punches to EDM and souped up pop music, but I’m not ashamed. I’ve made incredible, lasting friendships and am straight up challenged to grow and be better.

Les Mill’s motto is “one tribe” – thousands of people all over the world participate, but, kinda like the Catholic church – we’re all practicing the same thing, together. There’s strength in unity, and beauty in strength.

Teaching scratches the parts of me that have been itchy for a little bit. It’s part performance (better have your lines memorized!), and part social outreach. I love practicing so much – it’s a little infectious. There’s nothing better than inspiring a group of people into action – to share the joy that I have right along with my team mates, fellow teachers, and class members.

I come back to class again and again - to push myself, for the adrenaline and self confidence, and because it's really fun. You'll never hear me say that about running!

If you're wanting to try it out (and you DEFINITELY should!) click here to find a class near you.

here's a little montage of some of the inspiring instructors I get to work with and learn from at Merritt (with a few cameos from yours truly!) Come join the fight!


No, sorry, no babies on the way. But five months in and our little apartment is really starting to feel like home. We did some cleaning on Sunday, and the late afternoon sun coming in through the windows makes the place even more warm and homey. We haven't had many visitors yet - want to take a peek around? 

The apartment is fairly spacious - 1200 sq feet, one bedroom, one bath. We are lucky that the space is so wide - most Baltimore homes are very narrow - anywhere from 11-18 feet wide is the standard. 
But located above the shop means a bit more room - both in the stairwell and in the main living space. Thank goodness!

The living area is divided up with everyone's favorite Expedit shelves. The walls were painted before we arrived, and we kept the red theme going throughout the room with curtains, my reading chair, and other accents. Our office space is on the other side of the bookcase - just enough visual separation, since we both work from home. 

It's been fun playing "yours, mine and ours" with our furniture, artwork, and other knickknacks. We've made great use of trunks and shelving to squeeze every ounce of storage out of the space. It's nice to have empty shelves - room to grow. Look, ma! Everything has a home. 

One empty box - the kitties like to curl up and put themselves away. We got the "K"at Hinge over Memorial Day - Eventually the goal is to rewire and light it up! But for now it looks pretty rad just on its own. 

With the windows open there's always a free show of some sort happening in the public square below. Every day there's something new- we've seen a marriage proposal, playground games, crab fests, musicians and buskers, and plenty of folks just walking around, enjoying the neighborhood. Every evening one or more bars live band music floats through the window. 

The wood ceilings are really unique, and the kitchen skylight brings light deep into the space. It's nice to rely so much on daylight during the summer. 

Art on the wall, bourbon on the bar, Sinatra on the record player. 
The white beadboard accents the red wall, giving it a modern, clean feel. 

We brought as much of Cincinnati as we could with us - and memories of all the people we love. Last time I was in town I picked up this Rookwood Tile for Keith - it's the same tile that is at the stadium; a tribute to our hometown team. 

We took the doors off the kitchen cabinets for a more open feel and easier access. It's nice to be able to easily get what I need as I whirl around the kitchen, creating delicious chaos as I go. The backsplash was already installed (thanks previous renters!), and between the two of us we were able to stock a fairly well equipped kitchen. My most favorite thing right now are the glass storage containers - an heirloom from a family friend who owned a glass factory.

The ceiling of the apartment slopes front to back, and the height in the bedroom is easily 17 or 18 feet. I had to crouch way down just to get this picture! I went back to IKEA not once, not twice, but four separate times to get the white wood Hemnes nightstands - they don't keep many in stock. His and hers lamps bring warmth into the room. Though the front gets rowdy with people on the square, it's amazingly quiet in the back. Most nights I sleep like a baby. 

More Ohio love - my friend Emily made the little pillow for me when I graduated college. Moved from red to orange in the bedroom - I found the comforter (it has LEAVES, not flowers, despite what some people think...) on sale at Target. It's a good compromise- colorful, but not overly feminine. 

This little vignette reminds us why we're here in the first place every time we walk out the door. Keith got a bunch of amazing abstract art from an Art Academy student who worked for him a long time ago, and we've incorporated it as much as we can into the apartment. 

Check out the rest of the pictures below. Hope you can come by for a real visit sometime soon!

Created with flickr slideshow.


For the first time in my entire life, I'm cultivating green things. That are more or less thriving. Okay, there was the oregano plant that probably got over-watered and didn't have a hole in the bottom. And the growing space is very limited - a fire escape and part of a roof that are next to air condensers and other machinery coming from greasy restaurants mean the air quality is probably pretty terrible.

Two months ago I bought three geranium plants and stuck them in a window box. Since then our little adventure in horticulture's expanded to include herbs, more flowers, three kinds of tomatoes, a lettuce plant, and a banana pepper plant that's completely taken off.

Today, I harvested the first pepper. The first thing I've ever grown - and not killed from laziness or neglect. Working from home gives a splendid excuse to take a break and climb out the window to check on the plants. Having an awesome partner who often helps with watering is another significant factor in ensuring plant success rates.

The geraniums and marigolds amaze me. They bloom for a few days, then wither in the sun. Run fingers through the heads to shake off and remove the spent flowers (dead-heading - it's actually a term!). Initially they look a little barren, but given some time, water and sunshine, and I wake in the morning to a brand new patch of fiery red blossoms, greeting me in the morning sun. They've grown. They're thriving.

It's a metaphor, probably.

Good things take time. I'm historically short on patience - Keith referred to me the other day as Hurricane Jenny. It's probably one of the reasons I've killed so many plants - results didn't happen right away, and other things took over the importance of water, sunshine, and time.

Building a community is a lot like cultivating a garden, I guess. At this point I'm still tilling the soil. Not sure what's gonna go where.

But the physical manifestation of tiny tomatoes in my hand is a good reminder that's it's starting to all come together. Water, sunlight and time will help us strengthen our new roots.

Elderberry Gin Fizzes and Strawberry-Rhubarb Cheesecake French Toast: or, The Time I Won At Brunch

Cooking is not always a competition... but I do enjoy winning. I blame my mother. There are few things more satisfying to me than presenting a concoction of my own making to a receptive crowd. It's not just about nourishment; it's the delight expressed when they take the first bite. The concentrated looks of eaters enjoying something epically delicious. It's a high I can't get enough of. It's not enough to just make something - the dish must be off the charts delicious. My dear friend Corrie invited Keith and I to an Easter brunch celebration at her cozy little apartment in southern Maryland. Would I mind bringing a dish to share?

 CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! After much Pinterest perusing, I saw a recipe for Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast Casserole my sister posted. I asked her about it, and she said it was good... but needed some tweaking. She and her friends enjoyed it, but she would've changed some things for the next time. I took notes, and compared the recipe to my mom's recipe for Apple French Toast - a breakfast treat we had several times a month when I was growing up. 

The original recipe called for 10 - yeah, TEN - eggs. Katy thought the ratio of egg to fruit was somewhat off. She also didn't like the way the strawberries lost their flavor during baking. I chose to up the fruit ratio and lose some of the eggs. Using only 5 eggs and adding in chia seeds still made a custardy concoction that cooked up without becoming a fruit fritatta.

I picked up some rhubarb and local apples and made a more fleshed out fruit filling - the rhubarb and apples fared much better in the oven. An additional pint of strawberries was chopped and macerated overnight, served as a topping with some fresh whipped cream.  The recipe was definitely a hit.

The key ingredient was the bread. We dropped $7 on a loaf of Brioche from Whole Foods and I don't regret a penny of it. The loaf sliced up into 10 perfect slices and was lightly toasted in the oven to better soak up the custard cream cheese mixture. Regular sandwich bread just won't compare - proceed with caution.

Of course, no brunch is complete without some fun, fruity drinks! I have a minor love affair with egg white meringue drinks- the Clover Club is one of my favorites. This recipe for an Elderflower Gin Fizz was frothy and fun. My friend and fave mixologist Molly recommended Gilbey's Gin as a good budget mixer - but you have to shake the crap out of it!  
The sun was out, the food was delicious, and the eight of us enjoyed each other's company and the arrival of Spring. It was strange to not spend Easter with family, but we had a pretty great time. 

 Strawberry-Rhubarb Cheesecake Brioche Bake (adapted from this recipe)

Here's what you need:
  • 1 loaf French Brioche bread, cut into 10 slices and lightly toasted (250 degree oven for 15 minutes)
  • 12 oz neufchâtel cheese
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (use the white in a drink!)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb, sliced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Here's what you do with it:
  • Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Whip cream cheese in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add sugar, egg yolk, and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Whisk together eggs, chia seeds, milk, half-and-half, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl, mix the chopped fruit, brown sugar, and spices.
  • Spread a dollop of cream cheese mixture onto a slice of bread, then layer fruit on top. Top with another slice to create a sandwich. Do this with the rest of the bread - there should be about a third of the fruit and cream cheese left over when you're finished. (see the picture above)
  • Cut each sandwich into six cubes - first into thirds, then each third in half. Arrange four out of five sandwich cubes into the baking pan- they should fit snugly.
  • Top with remaining fruit and drizzle remaining cream cheese mixture over the top. Place remaining sandwich cubes on top. Finally, pour egg mixture over the top. Press down lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate over night.
  • Remove from refrigerator and let rest while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 25-35 minutes or until the surface is golden and the center is set.
  • I cut up an additional pint of strawberries and macerated them with sugar and lemon juice for a topping. Additional fruit and fresh whipped cream really put this over the top. 


Elderflower Gin Fizz

1 oz elderflower liqueur
2 oz gin
1 egg white
1.5 oz lemon juice

Combine ingredients, shake vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker (or water bottle with a top if you're me) Strain into a glass and top with something bubbly - lemon seltzer, club soda, prosecco - pick your poison! Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. 


Henry demonstrates being upside-down
The last month and a half flipped my world upside down. It's equal parts refreshing and disconcerting. Baltimore is like looking in a distorted mirror at Cincinnati - a concave one (is that the one where things are bigger?)

There's just.. more. More neighborhoods - and more to each neighborhood. I feel paralyzed with indecision, frantically paging through my Yelp bookmarks, each time we decide to go try someplace new. Cincinnati has a finite number of choices, many of them delicious.

Stepping outside my new apartment lands me in the middle of dozens of options within walking distance - never mind where we can go on a bike, bus, or car. What if we choose wrong, and waste money and calories on crappy food? So far there have been more hits than misses, but it's still overwhelming. Privilege problems? Perhaps.

Everyone I talk to echoes many of the same sentiments about Baltimore that I do about Cincinnati. "There's so much to do here! Every weekend there's so many choices! All the neighborhoods are so great! It's so small town - you run into all sorts of people you know!" Nice to know it's not just Cincy.

Making friends as a grown up is hard. Making friends as a grown up in a new city when you work from home is even harder. It's pushed me to become more outgoing - every time I'm out is an opportunity for someone to smile back - for a conversation to begin, and maybe turn into something more. We've met a few people, who are awesome and genuine and fun.

view from our rooftop. 

Baltimore is refreshing. There's a lot that needs fixed (as in every city), but so far, it seems... they're doing a lot of things right. Maryland as a whole is focusing on important things to help its citizens. The tax rate is high, but the parks are great, there are bike lanes everywhere, neighborhoods are stabilizing, the've passed progressive policies at the state level (healthcare, gay marriage, raised minimum wage, decriminalized marijuana, universal pre-K to name a few). It's a glimpse into Cincy's future- what it's like to have a truly bustling set of core neighborhoods. (hint: the parking SUCKS.)

it's okay to just. be. still. 
It feels wrong to say it... but... it feels good. To be here. to focus on enjoying my little life - planting flowers, making friends, decorating the apartment, living with my guy - instead of tearing myself in two lining the ranks of fighting for tiny victories. The fights back in Cincinnati are important, and are bringing people together - encouraging new people to step up and be heard - giving a sense of purpose and belonging to those in its midst - and it's wonderful to see it continuing on. Without me.

I left my love in good hands. Is it okay that I'm crushing a little on something new?

This season in my life is letting some stillness back in my world. To be okay with a slower pace. To not have all the answers, yet. To renew my sense of wonder, discovery, and even fear. To stretch and grow and see what's inside my overstimulated, Cincinnati-driven little mind. There's a fine line between keeping up with back home and remaining too attached. Like an overprotective mother letting her kid play on the playground by itself, I bite my tongue and work to let go, just a little.

You guys are taking good care of the city. Thanks for that.